Prominent gender and media studies professors from across the country converged recently to help host what was dubbed by organizers as a “Feminist, Anti-Racist Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” to create or influence dozens of entries on the online encyclopedia.
A Claremont Graduate University endowment fund sponsored the effort, which promoted creating and “improving” entries dedicated to: feminists; feminist theories; science studies; science, technology and society; human sexuality; artificial intelligence; and film theory; according to an email that announced the event to the Claremont Colleges community, as well as the “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page.”
“This event is … proposed because an increasing number of undergraduates are utilizing digital humanities techniques in their research, as well as studying and publishing their findings using the Internet and online spaces that can be hostile, sexist, hierarchical, overly entertainment-focused, and identity neutral,” states a blog post on the Claremont Digital Humanities website. “The Feminist/Anti-Racist Digital Humanities BLAIS project encourages more complicated expressions of difference and identity in online spaces.”
The event, also dubbed by organizers as “Wikistorm,” took place in late October at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Professors involved with the effort did not respond to emails fromThe College Fix seeking comment. With that, it remains unclear exactly what additions and changes were made to Wikipedia during the event.
The “Edit-a-thon Wikipedia Page,” however, listed 22 women involved in feminist theory and various science, society and technology studies who either needed a biographical entry created for them, or their current articles allegedly needed additions and edits.
The Edit-a-thon page also suggested editing famed philosopher Rene Descartes’ page, noting its contemporary reception category “could include critiques and debates, including feminist philosophers who have criticized Cartesian dualism and its legacies.”
Another of the subjects targeted by the “Wikistorm” included “human sexuality.”
It’s unclear what changes, if any, were made to the entry, but its introduction currently reads that “human sexuality … can refer to issues of morality, ethics, theology, spirituality or religion. It is not, however, directly tied to gender.” It also reads that “socio-cultural aspects of sexuality include … Christian views on avoidance of sexual pleasure.”
Wikistorm was open to the public, and students were encouraged to attend and take part. Its agenda also included a roundtable discussion on “feminist, anti-racist approaches to technology,” according to organizers.
Educators who led the talk, according to organizers, included UC Irvine Women’s Studies Professor Kavita Philip, whose essays have been published in journals such as Postmodern Culture and Radical History Review, according to the college’s website.
Also slated to attend was UC San Diego’s Professor Elizabeth Losh, who teaches courses such as “media seductions” and “digital journalism,” the school’s website states.
Claremont’s Pitzer College Media Studies Professor Alexandra Juhasz was among the mix of leaders as well; Juhasz’ professor profile page links to a “media praxis” website that promotes “media for social change,” among other causes.
Also on tap for the Wiki edit-a-thon was Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York; Lisa Parks, a UC Santa Barbara Film and Media studies professor and an affiliate of the Department of Feminist Studies; and Lisa Cartwright, a UC San Diego gender studies professor.
When asked to address the appropriateness of the effort, in terms of editing Wikipedia to promote ideologies, Rod Leveque, assistant director of media and online relations for Claremont Graduate University, told The College Fix in an email he could not comment on the question because “I haven’t seen any information to suggest the premise is correct.”
He also stated he did not know how much university endowment money was provided to fund the endeavor.
“The edit-a-thon appears to be one workshop that is a piece of larger project aimed in part at helping graduate and undergraduate students from a wide range of disciplines, primarily in the humanities, learn how to experiment with digital scholarship and expression,” he stated. “I’m not sure I could break out the costs of this particular workshop from the funding of the larger endeavor, but the costs don’t appear to be substantial.”
The BLAIS grants come from an endowed fund established with private donations a few decades ago, Leveque said.
“Grants from this fund are awarded for projects that promote collaboration among faculty and students from across the borders of the various colleges that comprise the Claremont Colleges Consortium,” he said.
Indeed, more “Wikistorms” are in the offing, according to the inaugural effort’s organizers.
Assistant Editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report.
Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.